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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Liberally-minded, with exceptions

I'm a liberal. But I don't exactly fit the mold of your stereotypical liberal.

For instance, I'm unapologetic about my disdain for bums, whereas I think liberals are generally concerned about the well-being of the homeless and impoverished.

Furthermore, I've learned my lesson about supporting taxes -- which liberals generally do. Don't get me wrong, I think the theory of taxes is sound. It makes sense that we all chip in for common services provided by the government, especially if we are the ones who use those services.

In elections in recent years, I supported the local tax grants for the Arts & Zoo Council of Utah, and for the Leonardo Exhibit at Library Square, and for a levy of taxes for Trax. But look what happened: We gave the Zoo $1Million, and now all of a sudden they are rallying for another $20Million, or some such outrageous number; We gave the Leonardo another $1Million (I believe), and 5 years later the project is empty-funded and nowhere near completion; We gave Trax whatever they were asking for in their grant, and yet it's more expensive than ever to take the Trax.

So when the Cops & Firefighters were rallying for a new Public Safety Building in last year's election, I actually read the proposal, and found that they had packed the terms with a whole bunch of expensive extras. In other words, they were being greedy. So I voted against that proposition (and thankfully it did not pass). I would have supported a reasonable bill that asked for a new building at a reasonable price, and nothing more. But those cops & firefighters couldn't see past the dollar signs in their pupils, and so they've been shot down until they can bring a more balanced proposal to the table.

So in other words, I'm much more cautious about my support of taxes these days.

But aside from the bums and the taxes, perhaps the greatest exception to my liberality is that I wholeheartedly despise the POLITICAL CORRECTNESS MOVEMENT. (If I could, I'd write that in a scary wavy Hallowe'en-type font, just to highlight the seriousness of the matter.)

The delightful Sterkworks recently posted about a political correctness issue involving the cleaning crew at her office. (It's a nice post, pop over there and read it.) I posted a comment which addressed the issue specifically, but which also related my feelings on the P.C. movement in general. Here's the pertinent part:

"I hate how the P.C. movement makes people think that they need to dance around everyone’s feelings. To me, the best thing to do is just be reasonable and try to treat people how you want to be treated. The P.C. movement stinks of bigoted people trying to look like they aren’t bigoted by dictating what people can and can’t say or do."
A few anecdotes and general explorations of P.C. issues:

  • Remember back when you could call the descendants of the original peoples of America "Indians"? And now P.C. dictates that you have to call them "Native Americans". (Ok, so then what do you call me? Cause my native land is also America. You can call someone a native Mexican, but you can't call me a native American unless I'm tribal.) Funny thing is, ask the "Native Americans" what they want to be called, and they'll tell you that they don't care whether you say "Indians" or "Native Americans" -- they are both English terms. They prefer to call themselves by their tribal names. So here we are, trying not to hurt the feelings of the Native Americans when in actuality they don't care one way or the other. So whom are we serving in this ridiculous charade?

  • Once when I was in college, I responded to a woman's letter which was printed in the UofU's Daily Utah Chronicle. She was complaining that the school's "Entrepreneur Week" was sexist, because it only used the masculine form of the French word Entrepreneur, and not the feminine form, which is something like Entrepreneusse. (But I don't speak French, so I'm not sure.) I pointed out in my reply letter, which was also published, that she completely overlooked the fact that when we are speaking English, "entrepreneur" is an English word, and in English we don't make a distinction between masculine and feminine for most words. Nobody would have read "Entrepreneur Week" hanging on a banner from the business building and thought, "Hey, why are they not including women in this week's exciting festivities?"

  • A few months ago, Ian and I joined Broy in meeting with a local Atheist group at a coffee shop in town. At one point, a group of people entered the coffee shop, one of whom was very clearly a transgendered woman. Two of the people in the Atheist group proceeded to quietly mock her, and both Ian and I thought it was ironic that we were sitting in a group of people who complain of being persecuted because of their lack of religion, and yet there they were in turn persecuting this woman because she was TG. We were both offended by this display, though we didn't say anything to one another or the two mockers. But then, perhaps due to the sensitivity of the moment, Ian took offense when I leaned over and said, "She's wearing WAY too much make-up." He thought I was likewise mocking, when in fact, I was merely saying something that I would have said about any other woman wearing too much make-up. He should have known better than to think I would mock a transgendered person for being TG. I have transgendered family and friends, and I love them both and have absolutely no problems with them. But when people become sensitive, sometimes they misinterpret the meaning behind the words.

  • In the Harriett Cole advice column, there has been recent discussion about the word "boy" as a derogatory term for black people (I'm sorry, should I be saying African American? No? We abandoned that term? Ok, just trying to stay P.C.). Anyway, in yesterday's column, a woman wrote in saying that when the warehouse she works in was getting a much-needed cleaning, she walked in and said, "Boy, it sure looks great in here!" right in front of a black man sweeping the floor. The man threw down his broom and argued with her about her using the word "boy". Clearly she was just using this term in an exclamatory sense, and not in a derogatory sense. Hell, she wasn't even using it in a noun sense, but more of the sense in which I just used the word "Hell" -- not as the noun it usually represents, but as an expletive.

The point is, I think people ought to focus on the INTENT of words and actions before getting their panties in a twist. People are going to misspeak and hurt people's feelings, and often that will not have been their intention. Of course, there are bigoted bastards out there who do want to hurt people's feelings. Also, I would argue that no one is free from prejudice. I have my prejudices. But on the whole I think most people are decent human beings who just want to live their lives and be able to speak their mind without having people tell them that they are a bigot because they chose a non-P.C. term.

And I'll end with a little linguistics: Words do not have inherent meaning. Thus, no word is inherently good or bad. Meaning is assigned through use, and though there are words that hurt, sometimes words hurt only because the intent of their use is misinterpreted. This is what the P.C. movement ignores completely.

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Loralee Choate said...

That reminds me of the whole "Niggardly" debacle a few years ago.

And? I have determined that I am a social liberal and fiscal conservative. There are more of us than you would think.

Sra said...

Just shows to go ya that things are not all black and white, and people can't easily be pigeon-holed.

I missed the whole niggardly thing. But I imagine it was the same old P.C. story.

Loralee Choate said...

That reminds me of the whole "Niggardly" debacle a few years ago.

And? I have determined that I am a social liberal and fiscal conservative. There are more of us than you would think.

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